Day 73: Testimony of Vintsis and Kontonikolas

73rd Hearing, Ceremonial Hall, Athens Court of Appeals, 8 July 2016

I.Court access

The courtroom remains open to the public on presentation of a state ID card, which the police retain for the session. Spectators and press were present.

II. Presence and representation of the defendants

Seven of the 18 defendants whose physical presence was mandated by the court were in attendance; 27 defendants were recorded as absent, while the representation of the others’ was discussed during the day’s proceedings.

III. Motions and conclusion of Diamantis Vintsis’s testimony

Before Diamantis Vintsis, a member of the police’s rapid response unit, resumed his testimony, the Public prosecutor moved to deny the civil action’s motions to call Vasilios Handrinos and Achilleas Nikolaou to the stand as witnesses. The issue of Nikos Hatziefstratiou’s testimony was also discussed as the witness been called with Kontonikolas to testify but hadn’t appeared in court.

Continuing with his testimony, Vintsis said he had remembered something else: that in the 25 years he has been served with the rapid response unit, his patrols had been in downtown Piraeus and he had never encountered a Golden Dawn rally, either on or off duty. Whatever knowledge he had of Golden Dawn was from the media, for example the black clothing and something involving fishermen.

IV. Cross-examination by the civil action

During examination by the civil action lawyers, the witness said that on that particular night he had picked the route to the scene so the car could respond to the call as quickly as possible. He couldn’t recall what he had heard over the Dias motorcycle squad’s channel and had focused on what was being said on the police frequency but couldn’t remember the dispatcher’s call precisely.

When civil action lawyer Andreas Tzelis pointed out that the witness had said the dispatcher had told them to go to Number 60 Panagi Tsaldari street, Vintsis said he couldn’t recall why he and his partner in the patrol car didn’t go there or what route they had followed to get there. His reply prompted an outburst from the presiding judge: “No, sir. You are a police officer; you carry a weapon.”

The witness continued his testimony saying that when they got there, a crowd had gathered; he didn’t know what kind of crowd and couldn’t recall if there were other police there. Vintsis said they ran down side streets and returned to the patrol cars. He said he didn’t recall what was happening and that it was necessary to refer to his first deposition. The witness testified that he didn’t know if locals had mentioned Golden Dawn; that he and his partner did whatever they were told by central dispatch; that they didn’t go to Number 60 Tsaldari street because of the frantic crowd asking them to call for an ambulance, but said he didn’t ask anyone why they were so distraught.

Asked by Tzelis to say what did happen that night, Vintsis replied that there had been a murder, that he learned what he knew from television, that his partner filed an incident report, and that couldn’t recall if he had discussed doing this with his partner. The presiding judge said that in all her years in law, she had never come across a witness with such a weak memory.

In reply to questions from civil action lawyer Violetta Kougiatsou, the witness said a lot of calls were coming in from dispatch and that he had wondered at some point whether they were related to a football-fan incident as there had been a game on that night.

Vintsis replied to civil action lawyer Chrysa Papadopoulou’s questions that he didn’t know where the game was taking place, what game the call they received had been about, and that he had no special information about being on alert in the Piraeus area. He also testified that he hadn’t received a dispatcher’s call about an attack on migrants at Monastiraki and that there are always incidents involving migrants on Petrou Ralli street; that he couldn’t recall how much time he had spent dealing with the Petrou Ralli call. The witness also replied that he couldn’t remember if he had been informed about 60 Tsaldari street from the Dias frequency, that he doesn’t remember if Code E11 is about clashes or what Code 2610 means.

Responding to questions from civil action lawyer Eleftheria Tompatzoglou, he said he had served in the force for 14 years in the Piraeus area, had been involved in fewer than five homicides, that the Golden Dawn branch office in Nikea is on Korai Square and that Michaloliakos is Golden Dawn’s leader.

During questioning by civil action lawyer Takis Zotos, there were also questions from the presiding judge. Answering both, the witness said that he hadn’t been at the murder scene, that he knew the trial involved a murder case, that he hadn’t been present at any incident, that he had merely escorted the ambulance. He testified that another patrol car, A82, had been there manned by sergeants Nikolaos Dafos and Dimitris Kourentzis but that he didn’t know what the two were saying in their car. He said he was just a driver with the rapid response unit. He then mentioned that he didn’t remember what the dispatch call had said about the fishermen.

Vintsis said he hadn’t seen political party members training in guns and knives, that he had seen the defendant Giorgos Roupakias for the first time when he was in the back seat of the squad car with the driver’s partner. He said he couldn’t remember what had happened before that, prompting another outburst from the presiding judge, who told the witness he needed to remember whether he had been informed from somewhere. Vintsis said he had heard from central dispatch that they had the suspect and were heading for Keratsini police station. The witness said he had seen Roupakias again on television.

Replying to civil action lawyer Thanasis Kampagiannis’ questions, the witness said that with regards to the first incident that involved the non-Greeks, he and his partner hadn’t found anything. He also said that a senior officer hadn’t been on site and that he didn’t know why he recalled only the first incident but not the second; he said he thought he cordoned off the area with tape, that he didn’t remember precisely what kinds of people they took in for questioning; that there was one person in the ground-level covered parking area but he didn’t remember who had been chasing him.

During examination by civil action lawyer Kostas Papadakis, the witness said he was assigned to seek out people dressed in black. His partner was the one listening to the dispatcher’s calls and they saw nothing in the street. He reiterated that he didn’t recall why they didn’t go over to Tsaldari street, that he hadn’t given chase down any side streets, and that he didn’t know if there were individuals among the crowd who matched the description of the people they’d been asked to be on the look for.

Asked by civil action lawyer Panagiotis Sapountzakis why Roupakias was inside the squad car, the witness said he was in the car and they were going to the police station; asked if the murder had preceded this, the witness said he didn’t know what he was being asked.

To questions from civil action lawyer Antonis Adanasiotis, the witness said the only things he knew about the Perama incident were those reported on television – that it was an attack by Golden Dawn members. He said he didn’t know if that incident was linked to the case in which he was testifying; that he didn’t deal with Golden Dawn’s ideology or activities; and that when looking for people, he had been following orders from headquarters.

He answered civil action lawyer Angelos Vrettos’ questions by saying he was unaware of any increased alert that week because of the Perama incident and that he had heard about the “I’m one of you” phrase after the fact.

V. Cross-examination by the defence

Nikos Kontovazenitis opened the witness’s cross-examination by the defence. Responding to his questions, Vintsis said that he had seen a lot of people, none of whom were carrying clubs but some were wearing black. What had made on impression on him was the car facing the wrong way and that he had heard someone had been stabbed.

Answering defence lawyer Vasilis Oplantzakis, the witness said he hadn’t learned who owned the car. In his experience when a crime is planned, the perpetrator arrives at the scene and he flees varies according to the situation. He may get there using his own car or in a stolen car and leave using the same vehicle, by motorbike or by car and it is risky for someone to leave in a car that’s been parked the wrong way, but that it happens. He had surmised from the way the car had been parked that the perpetrator had not given this any thought. Vintsis said that it’s practice for squad car officers not to engage in conversation with those being taken in for questioning; that he didn’t know if the patrol car crew could question the suspect in the squad car, for example, for his name; that he didn’t know whether what he had experienced that night had been part of some organised plan.

To questions by defence lawyer Dimitra Velentza, the witness said that a strip search is always conducted. Responding to questions from defence lawyer Giorgos Roumpekas, the witness said he didn’t know where the word “clash” he had used in his statement to the Piraeus prosecutor had come from and that headquarters gets the information relayed by dispatch from citizens’ calls. Vintsis continued by saying he and his partner had first looked at Pavlos Fyssas out of curiosity because he was lying down and looked injured, but that afterwards they followed procedure and that Fyssas was alive until the ambulance arrived.

Replying to defence lawyers Dimitris Bonis and Yiannis Zografos, he said headquarters had only mentioned one person in a covered parking area, that he didn’t know if a person carrying a club had been picked up or if clubs had been found, that his only contact with police chief Iosif Symeonoglou was when he had instructed them to clear people from the scene.

Questioned by defence lawyer Periklis Stavrianakis, the witness said he had seen Roupakias sitting in the back seat with his hands tied behind him.

VI. Testimony of Ilias Kontonikolas

Ilias Kontonikolas, a friend of Fyssas’, was then called to give evidence.

Examined by the presiding judge, Kontonikolas testified that he is a graphic artist who was grew up in Keratsini and is quite familiar with the area. He said that he hadn’t been close friends with Fyssas although they had known each other for about ten years and that he’d been to his house a couple of times and also seen him in concerts. The witness said he also dabbles in music.

That night, he had met up with Dimitris Melachrinopoulos, who had stopped by the witness’s house; together they had gone to Souvenir, the first café they stopped at that night, for a beer. At Souvenir they ran into Pavlos Seirlis and his girlfriend Lina, two men named Nikos whose surnames he didn’t recall [Hatziefstratiou and Mandas] and Christos Pakiotis, who were watching the football game. Kontonikolas said his friends talked to Fyssas and arranged to go meet him; he hadn’t heard the telephone exchange himself. Out the group, only Fyssas and Giorgos Doulvaris were probably interested in the football match. No one objected to leaving for the second café, Koralli, as there was no reason to stay at Souvenir. The two cafés were about 300 meters apart, maybe a little further, and they took two cars to get there; they arrived very quickly and parked on Pavlou Mela street. Koralli was full; the Fyssas group had taken two tables but no spare seats, so they found some stools and chairs and sat down. Fyssas was there with his girlfriend Chrysa [Tosloukou] and Doulvaris. It was quite noisy; the group talked, but they weren’t yelling.

There were three Golden Dawn members at one table: one wore fatigues and army boots over his pants; they were all brawny and dressed in dark colours. The witness said that this group was looking over at them. He didn’t notice anyone from his group staring back. Just before the end of the football match, the Golden Dawn group got up to leave; they passed by the witness’s table and one of the tripped. That’s when Seirlis said, “it’s ok, brother”. The match ended, and the witness went outside where he saw his group terrified; there was a strange feeling in the air. Meantime, Pakiotis had an upset stomach and said he was leaving. The witness walked Pakiotis to Tsaldari street, where he caught a taxi.

Continuing his testimony, Kontonikolas said his friends told him they couldn’t take their cars because a group of Golden Dawn members had gathered. There were people around, like shadows. Two Dias squad motorbikes with two police officers each drove past and then a silver-coloured Nissan car. That’s when it crossed his mind that something was about to go down; he and his friends decided to return to the main square where all the cafes are located because it’s more crowded and would be safer. He didn’t notice anyone going from one group to the other.

He then noticed the silver-coloured car coming from the direction of Salaminos street trailed by six or seven motorcycles, each ridden by two people dressed in black and wearing helmets. The driver asked Fyssas for directions to Kefallinias street and Fyssas said, “you’re on it”. The motorcycles were following the car because they stopped when it did; the people riding the motorbikes resembled the three from the café as some wore army boots and fatigues. Almost all of them had helmets and some were holding them. They stopped in the middle of Kefallinias and began shouting “we’re going to fuck you, come here chickens”. Then Fyssas said, “we’re running now, let’s run”. The attack followed.

Kontonikolas said he, Fyssas, and Melachrinopoulos stayed behind; the other ran down side streets. They were beaten with helmets, punches, kicks; the witness was bashed on the head with a helmet; he fell to the ground and was kicked in the ribs, then fell into a window front. Melachrinopoulos came over to help him and was jumped from behind by a guy hitting him on the back; three guys were beating Fyssas.

The witness said that he didn’t go to the hospital because he didn’t want to leave his house after all this happened.

He saw some 20 Golden Dawn members shouting and swearing from the other side of the street. When he stood up, he saw two police officers on foot. In his statement afterwards he said four people had surrounded Fyssas and had been hitting him, then the silver-coloured car they had seen earlier came down the wrong way down a one-way street and stopped in a sidewalk parking indentation and reached Fyssas in about four paces; the four people beating Fyssas widened their circle but didn’t leave. He saw the car driver approach Fyssas and appeared to punch him in the chest. Fyssas doubled over and then turned, lifted his shirt up, and said, “the motherfucker stabbed me”. He saw the driver go over to his car.

Kontonikolas said the first time they’d seen the car and driver, he thought there had been two people in the backseat although he couldn’t remember if they were female or male. When the attack took place, the police officers were standing on the sidewalk, a short distance left of Fyssas, but did nothing. They approached immediately afterwards, but he didn’t see them separate Roupakias from Fyssas. He later testified that Fyssas had stumbled and lost consciousness; that the ambulance took a long time to arrive and that when it finally did, Melachrinopoulos helped lift Fyssas in.

The witness said they had gone to the hospital in Doulvaris’ car and stayed there; they learned that Fyssas hadn’t made it. Afterwards, plainclothes police officers came to the hospital and took them to Keratsini police station.

Asked by the presiding judge how he explained the fact that in a previous statement he had said the whole incident lasted just a few seconds and that even the police officers who tried to separate them hadn’t had time to act, the witness replied this wasn’t what had happened but that when giving his preliminary statement that night, he was in poor shape and in taking his statement, the police took something he was saying but didn’t write it exactly the way he’d said it but altered it so that it would sound right.

Kontonikolas also testified that he had seen Golden Dawn members parading with Greek flags and in step. He realised they were Golden Dawn from their appearance; they were not like others on marches; they were like criminals. Before he had been assaulted, he had only known the parade he had seen and that the group opposed leftists, anarchists and migrants, and that they were bullies. The witness said that after the murder, he had done an internet search and learned about cell leaders. They head groups like the one that attacked him and his friends; there was a regional leader in every area too. He said he had also learned that nothing went down without an order from the leader.

Answering questions from the bench, Kontonikolas said he didn’t know if Golden Dawn members hung out at Koralli café or if Fyssas had been there before. He said that it was possible the Golden Dawn group had given them a once-over because they had beards and longish hair. He said Hatziefstratiou was with them, but they were no longer in contact.

The witness said he didn’t know if Fyssas was known to the Golden Dawn group although he knew Fyssas wrote antifascist songs; he also said that they had been singled out because fascists oppose anything that is different and wanted to flex their muscles in a neighbourhood rife with fascists. He said the bystanders seemed like a crowd; that he hadn’t heard any orders being given; that the ambulance was slow in arriving but that he wasn’t sure Fyssas would’ve survived after being stabbed in the heart.

Kontonikolas then said that Fyssas had been trying to defend himself against four people hitting him and that when the car drew up, those four had backed away but hadn’t left. They seemed to be waiting around for him to finish off the attack and that they seemed to know one another and had all left after the stabbing. He estimated there were around 30 people across the street. He heard yells, swearing, but didn’t recall any specific chants. The witness said their presence seemed to embolden Roupakias to do what he had done. He said there hadn’t been an altercation between Fyssas and Roupakias, that Roupakias stabbed Fyssas directly a few second later and that someone else could’ve also been killed that night.

During cross-examination by Papadopoulou, the witness said Fyssas had been into music for about ten years and while he wasn’t as widely known as some laikos [Greek popular] singer, he had begun to develop a larger audience after his collaboration with a popular rapper. The witness said he couldn’t identify the three people outside Koralli. He also said that when giving his preliminary statement, he had been sleepless but also under psychological stress. The witness also testified that Fyssas was involved in social activism.

The witness then answered questions from Tompatzoglou and Kougiatsou, with occasional interventions from the presiding judge. He said that it had immediately crossed his mind that the people outside Koralli were Golden Dawn and that he was impressed by the fact that their number had grown as time passed. It had also crossed his mind that those people on Pavlou Mela street had joined with the later arrivals and attacked them afterwards. Fyssas had been in a good mood that night and sober. The witness also mentioned that he heard that after the murder, Golden Dawn had said the incident had been over football teams, although it later assumed political responsibility for what had happened. Kontonikolas said Roupakias had walked straight up to Fyssas and seemed prepared as he had taken large strides right up to him and that the two men hadn’t scuffled.

The court was adjourned until 9am, Thursday, 14 July 2016.